Murder Mountain? Danielle Bertolini moved across the country for a new start amidst the Redwoods. Instead, she found herself trapped and looking for a way out.
Danielle was a friend you don't forget about. Kristen Seavy, the voice behind the "Murder, She Told" podcast, certainly didn't. Seavy, a classmate of Danielle's in Maine, said she remembers her as "unapologetic" and "spunky." Life for her childhood friend though had been a difficult journey. She battled substance abuse issues, and more recently, the loss of her infant son, Xavier. In 2010, a physician determined the boy that Danielle was carrying had severe developmental issues and wouldn’t survive. Danielle's physician made the decision to undergo emergency surgery to terminate her pregnancy, an event, family members say, that altered her forever.
In 2014, Danielle would decide that she wanted to create a fresh start for herself and she moved to California, amidst the redwoods. Her father lived here and she also had quite a few family members that lived in the area. Unfortunately, California wasn’t the answer she was looking for. Danielle fell in with the wrong crowd and was using heavily. Before her disappearance, she was trapped and trying to find a way out.
“She just met up with the wrong people,” Dick said. ” … She went to go work for people on ‘Murder Mountain,’ which is a mountain out there where there’s marijuana grows, a lot of dealing, a lot of heroin, a lot of meth, a lot of everything.”
The days leading up to her disappearance
Daniella last had contact with her family on January 29, 2014. She stayed in regular communication with both her mother and sister, so it was unusual when Danielle seemingly dropped off the grid. Danielle's mom, Billie Jo Dick, said that the last time they spoke, Danielle had called her saying she was ready to leave California and that she was planning on going to Law Enforcement. Dick would not hear from her daughter again.
The day of her disappearance
At the time of her disappearance, Bertolini had been crashing on the couch of a James Jones and she called him on the night of her disappearance to pick her up from the Swain’s Flat area, about a 30-minute drive away. She was seen being picked up by this individual but she never made it into town. Jones was also the last person to see Sheila Franks before she disappeared. Fortuna police have publicly said they think the two women's cases are connected and that Jones is a person of interest.
This connection has brought the two families together. Family members of both women are very active on social media, working together on the Facebook page ‘Help Find Sheila Franks and Danielle Bertolini’ as well as organizing search efforts. They refuse to quit until they get some answers about their missing loved ones.
Remains are found
On March 9, 2015 a local resident riding an ATV found a skull in the Eel River. DNA tests would later reveal that the skull was Danielle's.
"I don't think it could have been there that long," said Ghidinelli, who visits the site often, "I think it must have washed down from upstream. It was half-buried in the sand and caught by a willow branch."
Where the case stands today
Danielle's case is still open; no suspects have been arrested. Kristen Seavey, Danielle's childhood friend, is trying to change that. From her website, Seavy writes:
"I have started a petition on change.org to dial up the pressure on this case. Danielle isn’t the only person to go missing under the same circumstances. There is a person of interest and there is evidence. Justice is so close. Help the family get the closure that they deserve."
You can help support Danielle's family's effort in bringing the person by signing the petition here.
If you have any information about the murder of Danielle Bertolini, please call the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Anonymous Tip Line at (707) 268-2539.
“There are so many stories about what happened, but all I know is that both Danielle and Sheila suffered and we don’t have answers,” Billie-Jo Dick, Danielle’s mother, told Dateline. “We are just torn right apart.”